Isle of Ometepe
The biggest lake in Nicaragua is simply called Lake Nicaragua and in the middle of this lake is the Isle of Ometepe. This is an island shaped like a figure of 8 which has been formed by two volcanos which are joined by a thin isthmus of land. The two volcanoes are Maderas (1394m) and Concepcion (1,610m).
The main port to travel to the island is a small town called San Jorge. From here there are four ferries per day which take about an hour to cross the lake to Moyogalpa on the island. There are also some smaller lancha type boats but the lake is very choppy so a bigger boat gives a much smoother ride.
The ferries do take vehicles however they are fairly small with only room for two trucks and you need to book well in advance to get on with a bigger vehicle like ours. We had therefore decided to do a day trip to the island and catch the 6.30am ferry over.
When we arrived in Moyogalpa there was a tour guide from the UGO (an association of the independent tour guides of Ometepe) waiting at the dock and we arranged with him for a tour of the island visiting 4 sites of interest.
This would get us back to the dock to catch the 4.30 ferry back to the mainland.
The first stop on out tour was to go to Charco Verde which is a nature reserve based around a lake which is connected to lake Nicaragua in the wet season. We went on a nature walk here and saw a number of Howler monkeys. The scenery was a dry forest with some agricultural land.
The next stop on the tour was the small town of Altagracia where there is an old church which has some ancient statues in the courtyard (around 1000 years old). The old church itself is falling down and a new church has been built behind it. Instead of preserving the old church they are just letting it fall down.
After this we visited a Finca on the other side of the island where there were a lot of Petroglyphs carved into the volcanic rock scattered around the property. These were interesting and were in shapes like monkeys, spirals and a warrior.
By the time we had finished there it was time for lunch and we stopped at small restaurant on the nicest beach on the island, Santo Domingo. The beach has suffered somewhat though over the last couple of years as El Nino weather conditions have meant a lot of rain which has raised the level of the lake thereby flooding the beach.
After lunch we were driven to the last stop on our itinerary which was the La Presa Ojo de Agua. This is a swimming hole fed by a natural spring. The water wasn’t hot but a lovely refreshing temperature and great to cool down in the heat of the day. It was also very clear and fresh. The water was flowing from one end of the pool to the other at a pretty fast rate so the spring must be fairly strong.
From here we were taken back to Moyogalpa and had time for a quick walk around before the ferry arrived to take us back to the Beast. The ferry on the way back was slightly different and had a indoor lounge with air-conditioning which was much appreciated after the hot day.